03 March 2017

Exit West ~ Mohsin Hamid

** OK **

Umm when is magic realism not science fiction?
When someone wants to highbrow it and call it "literature"

I was disappointed!  I very much enjoyed The Reluctant Fundamentalist (poignantly enlightening), and loved How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (wryly funny).  They were both very different to each other and Hamid has done something very different again - but this one missed the mark for me.

The plotting was thoughtful, the premise was interesting, the characters were engaging but unfortunately it did not make the sum of the whole a thoughtful, interesting, engaging read.  The writing style was both descriptive or stark, poetic or simplistic, pacy or plodding.   The whole thing lacked a cohesion.  

It wasn't about the victims of conflict, it wasn't about refugees.  At it's heart it was a relationship story - how it began and how it was strained by circumstances and how it petered out.  The beginning, set in an unnamed city under attack from unnamed forces, was good at showing that those caught up in a conflict are just-like-you (social media, coffee culture, studies).  The middle introduced random irrelevant characters.  The end was as strained as the relationship became.

It seemed to me that the only reason for the relocation doors was to fast track the movement of the characters as refugees.  Nothing of substance about the doors was explored.  They were just a narrative device but they could have been so much more interesting!

It is short enough and unusual enough to keep you from looking for an exit door but that's about it.